With the new fall TV season just underway, the hunt is on for The Next Big Thing. But as you scour the airwaves, it might be worth considering that this could finally be the year that the Web beats TV to the punch?
I know, I know; the very word “webisode” instills instant nausea. There’s just been way too many years of undue hype and dashed hopes from the zillions of online-only series big and small that have tried to grab even a fraction of even a lowly cable series since all the way back to the standard bearer of this much-maligned genre, “Lonelygirl15.”
But squelch your skepticism and sample the new webis…er, digital original program “RCVR,” which premiered the first of six short-form episodes Wednesday on Machinima’s YouTube channel. If the brand Machinima means nothing to you, understand these are the guys that are better poised than anyone to crack the ceiling that seems to separate any series that originates online from what is truly mass and relevant in pop culture. Machinima is becoming that rare non-TV company capable of reliably producing entertainment with real production values, including actioner “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” and comedy “Bite Me.”
But “RCVR” is its best yet, a thriller that follows a government agent (Daniel Bonjour) as he visits people who report UFO sightings in 1973. Though he seems to be doing his damndest to discourage them from believing in the paranormal, he seems to be having some sort of alien contact of his own.
“RCVR” serves up a juicy slice of paranoia that’s perfectly timed to capitalize on the yawning vaccuum currently on TV for a series like “The X Files.” Some might even suggest it’s more than a little derivative of that show. But the failures of broadcast TV to fill this gap in recent years may have been met with failure–i.e. CBS’s “Jericho,” ABC’s “Fast Forward” and NBC’s “The Event”–but there’s got to be a sizable audience just dying to lap this up.
What’s also interesting about “RCVR” is the way it doesn’t just play out in purely episodic sequence; there’s a corresponding website and Twitter account filled with supplemental videos that just deepen the mystery.
If that format sounds a tad familiar to LonelyGirl15 fans, it may not be entirely coincidental. CAA packaged the series; the agency hatched LonelyGirl15, a disclosure that only came a few months into that viral phenomenon. Which isn’t to say “RCVR” is also passing itself off as some kind of real-life vlog from a random teenager; it’s a slick piece of entertainment from veteran new-media producer David van Eyssen with exclusive sponsorship provided by Motorla Mobility.
If “RCVR” doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, it won’t be the Internet’s only fall effort. Warner Bros. Digital Distribution is set to launch a series exclusively on Facebook beginning Oct. 11. From theatrical director McG (“Charlie’s Angels”), “Aim High” is about a high-school student, played by “Twilight’s” Jackson Rathbone, who doubles as a secret agent. Trailer below…